Inspired by the Angers Apocalypse Tapestry in France, ‘The Tapestry of Light’ is the first full cycle visual interpretation of John’s Apocalypse in tapestry form in over 500 years, and the first known to be by a woman. This is a masterpiece of weaving technique consisting of 14 panels made upon a monumental scale – 36 m x 3 m high – with a bespoke hanging system and complex electrical arrangements.
The tapestry is radiant and colourful, an incredible work made possible by the stunning use of modern technology. Irene Barberis worked as an artist in collaboration with scientist Professor David Mainwaring to research how Nano-particles could be safely incorporated within fibres to create a new visual effect. The tapestry is made out of three types of fibres: highly coloured acrylic, cotton and polyester fibres, specially dyed fluorescent threads, which intensify to neon-like fibre after exposure to UV light, and phosphorescent ones which absorb all ambient light and glow in the dark.
The tapestry is lit by a cycle of normal light, UV light and then plunged into near darkness for 3 minutes at a time. Each variation in lighting highlights the properties of the special fibres and brings different parts of the imagery to life in unexpected ways.
With any project our preference is to follow a pattern of discussion with the client so that we fully understand the particular aspects of the task, followed up by site visits to the work area. We especially review access routes and potential impact either upon or by other users of the space – not least members of the general pubic – so that the resulting Risk Assessment and Method Statements document an agreed and safe process. As our project plan for ‘The Tapestry of Light’ developed, all elements of transportation and installation were worked through and any special requirements properly resourced.
‘The finest plan, no matter how well conceived, must consort with reality’ – The Artful Logistics team have a strong pedigree of art installation. We recognise that each project may bring unusual factors into play. We also pride ourselves on our ability to adapt to the dynamic changes that sometimes present themselves. Major considerations for this installation were the need to instruct and manage a team of volunteers who had been engaged by the artist to assist with the installation. This was achieved by holding a number of ‘toolbox talks’ – a process whereby each stage or aspect of the process is presented in timely fashion to the team – giving each stakeholder the opportunity to voice their particular considerations.
Installing the tapestry onto the bespoke hanging system, the process of which had to evolve as we adapted it to the particular work area, was a job for many hands. This required fine coordination of individuals’ efforts and clear, precise communication by the Artful management team.
The complex computer controlled wiring system which gave control of the multi-phase lighting harness had been designed for when the tapestry was first displayed in Belgium, a very different layout to the ancient Chapter House in Canterbury Cathedral. Our technician re-configured the harness so that it could be installed in a much less obtrusive manner and in a way that put a much reduced physical load upon the tapestry hanging system.
Great consideration had to be made of the surrounding architecture and the points from which the tapestry would be viewed so that the huge amount of wiring could be made almost invisible.
Much to the satisfaction of the principle exhibition collaborators – Canterbury Cathedral and the artist Dr Irene Barberis – the planned five day installation phase resulted in a successful, smooth operation. Already however plans for the de-installation procedure were already being developed.
The exhibition schedule determined that the tapestry was to go into temporary storage prior to being shipped to America where it was to be displayed at The Museum of the Bible in Washington. Artful Logistics again managed the demounting and repacking of the tapestry, its protection against any moisture, and its transfer to a temporary storage facility. This process included the design and manufacture of specialist transport cases to protect the valuable components of the system during this, and future, transportation. Later, we retrieved the tapestry from storage, packing it into bespoke shipping cases, and then organising the shipping arrangements for its transport to the United States.
“ It has been a great pleasure and delight to work with such a professional team at Artful Logistics. I was absolutely confident at all times that they brought to the project excellent and precise decisions and procedures, exhibiting their professionalism developed over many years of experience. They are excellent and creative problem solvers with both boldness and sensitivity. No task was too big for them nor difficult. They certainly took the stress out of the intricate and demanding installation and de installation of ‘The Tapestry of Light’ and all the extraneous aspects to such a large international project.” Irene Barberis